Stop me if you’ve read this script before.
The Winnipeg Jets get off to a great start but can’t finish off their chances. Their opponent roars back to take the lead. A late rally falls short and the Jets lose again.
If Winnipeg has been consistent at one thing this season, it’s following this script remarkably well, and that’s exactly what they did in a 4-2 loss to Nashville Tuesday night.
Drew Stafford opened the scoring 7:28 into the first but drilled the post on a glorious chance late in the frame.
The Jets dominated the first 19 minutes, but the final one was a catastrophe: Craig Smith tied the game with 41 seconds left and before anyone had a chance to blink, a Colton Sissons centering pass banked off the skate of Ben Chiarot and past Ondrej Pavelec.
Two goals, 11 seconds apart, and all of the sudden Winnipeg was down at the break. But they had plenty of chances to recover in the second. Stafford got robbed by Pekka Rinne on an early power play, and then Ondrej Pavelec returned the favour making a great cross-crease save on a 2-on-1.
The game could have turned with 6:13 left in the period. Predators winger Austin Watson caught Marko Dano in the head with an elbow and was given a match penalty. Dano would stay down for a couple minutes but would eventually return to the game.
But on the ensuing five-minute power play, the Jets couldn’t even muster a single shot. In fact it was the Predators getting the best chance and Pavelec bailed out his team, which happened countless times in the game.
Play started to get chippy in the third and it appeared the referees were swallowing their whistles. But after a number of close plays went uncalled, Tyler Myers was called for interference on what appeared to be a clean hit just after Filip Forsberg got rid of the puck.
The team was unhappy, the crowd was furious, and the Predators scored right as the penalty expired to extend their lead.
The Jets would not go quietly, though. Jacob Trouba banged in a loose puck after an odd-man rush to cut the lead to one, but just under two minutes later Nashville restored the two-goal lead when a Forsberg centering pass went off Craig Smith’s skate. It was the second time in the game a Predators goal went off a skate and in.
“Not getting out of the first period, I think in relation to how well the period had been played, to be down 2-1, the five-minute power play and the call in the third,” head coach Paul Maurice said, describing why his team lost. “These guys make bad calls. There’s stuff that happens on the ice that they miss. There’s no interference. It’s a clean hit.”
Stafford was equally unimpressed with the call on Myers.
“We were not happy at all with the Tyler Myers penalty. Sure enough, they score on it. Our special teams, especially on the power play side, we didn’t take advantage of a five-minute [power play]. Two goals off skates, I mean there’s nothing you can do.”
Despite the headshot Dano took in the second, he would return to get an assist on the Trouba goal, his first point as a Jet.
“It was a good play, 3-on-2 and I was just driving to the net, it just hit me and luckily bounced between the pads [of Rinne] and Trouba just put the puck in,” Dano said. “I’m getting more comfortable every game, trying to just keep my game simple and trying to get some chemistry with the guys on the ice.”
The game also marked the NHL debut of Scott Kosmachuk, who finished with 9:25 of ice time and three hits.
“The pace is a lot faster, something in the first couple of shifts I had to adjust to,” Kosmachuk explained, just a night after playing for the Manitoba Moose. “But once I got my feet under me everything was good. Coach told me to take it all in, to be nervous, to just enjoy the moment. That’s what I’m going to cherish.”
Pavelec allowed four goals on 31 shots but if it weren’t for many stellar saves the game would have been severely different. Rinne made 21 saves for the win.
The Jets finish their five-game homestand with a 1-3-1 record and now hit the road for a game in Detroit Thursday night. Puck drop is 6:30 p.m.